Grow | Autumn Harvest

Grow | Autumn Harvest

 

Over the summer I have been craving a slower pace of life. I found myself desperately falling over myself to keep up with the cottage gardening jobs but never getting the time to actually enjoy being in the garden. So, for Autumn I am taking a page from some of the wonderful slow living blogs I read (links at the end of the post) to sit back and just enjoy some much-needed downtime.

Weather

Okay, okay, I know we all love to give out about the weather but August was cold and damp. To any gardener hoping for their outdoor crops to mature it was awful. My garden literally fell apart in July a little due to neglect and a lot due to weather. In the three years I have been here and grown food this is by far the worst year I have had. If I had stuck to salad crops we would have been fine but this year has taught me that we need the greenhouse before next growing season starts.

 

 

Harvest

We got out and about to turn over the raised beds here at the cottage. The courgettes have mildew which isn’t a surprise but we harvested the last of them which you can see above, that one lonely Atena courgette. I love growing these as they complement the green courgettes well and I love seeing the happy yellow fruit in a mass of dark green leaves. These are usually easy to grow as long as they are planted well and fed properly. As I’ve said before I use bunny pellets in the garden and my courgettes just can’t get enough. Usually, these are planted in a type of hotbed with a mix of pellets and compost and they live happily. This year was just tough.

 

 Don’t let the praise of my rabbits fool you. Those guys are mean they ate my indoor cucumbers and tomatoes, which was my failsafe after they mastered a jailbreak of epic proportions. Needless to say, it is hard to stay mad at the little fluff monsters but I did for a while. 

The tomatoes and aubergines are just as sad. I’m telling you it’s like a Halloween nightmare out there. I did get some beautiful Sungold tomatoes throughout the summer but few and far between and I have been ripening on the window for most of the summer. I do have some beautifully sweet black cherry tomatoes that you can see in the picture but again few and far between. Also, those cauliflowers that I was so proud of on Instagram? Yeah, they bolted. They ended up as food for the bees and then my compost.

It’s Not All Bad News

The onions, garlic and potatoes have done well despite the epic battle against potato blight.  I have both Lila and White Lisbon onions and the garlic is good it’s just late as I was a tad late in removing the scapes. We still got to play potato hunts with the kids during the summer just not as much as we would have liked. My flower garden has been beautiful all summer, especially the roses. You can catch all my images in this post if you are curious. I just feel like I put in so much work with little or no reward. We didn’t get much family time out there and can someone tell me where the sunshine was this summer. Did we have a summer because I think I blinked and I missed it?

Slow Living

I bring you to the end of this post and the start of my slow living. If you follow me over on Instagram you probably know how hectic my life is between being a VA, freelancing, This is Knit and the toddlers. To stop an epic burn out before the busiest season of the year, I am embracing the art of slow living and just living with less. It fits with all my ideas of growing my own food and ultimately I just want to enjoy being a parent while my kids are still young enough to allow me to be a parent.

Time is moving so quickly, I can see it in their faces as they grow and change. My first born is now 3 and in school and is barely even a toddler. In reality, she is a little girl. I embrace this blog with her growing up as she is my little model and gardening companion and now her sister is finally big enough to play along too instead of sleeping through photo sessions.  I need to take a slower pace in order to be with them more and I know that you can all understand that. If you want to join in why not try a few of these blogs until I return next week with another knitting post. Be warned, set aside some time for these ladies their blogs are beautiful and filled with well-written, engaging content that had me hooked on first sight.

Simple and Season: I am a big fan of Kayte’s Instagram account and although her blog is primarily about coaching a social media she has some lovely posts on slow living like this and how to create a slow corner.

Design for Mankind: Erin is the author of Chasing slow and runs this beautiful blog. Be warned put aside some time when you first enter. You won’t want to leave.

Meandorla: Yes Sara is the Instagram Queen but she has some beautiful posts on her site about slow living that just make sense. If the others didn’t have you nodding in agreement Sara will.

 

See you next week.

xxx

 

 

 

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Interview | Hugh Cassidy

Interview | Hugh Cassidy

I love growing an online community and when I see a chance to introduce someone to a wider audience I usually jump at it. I follow Hugh on Twitter (@Horti_Hugo) for his insights into the gardening world. This year I got all caught up in his Dahlia Wars and have followed the development of his potager garden with keen interest. I thought by chatting with Hugh, I could inspire some of you to get out into your garden this weekend.

Question 1: Some of my readers may not know a lot about the gardening world. Could you tell us a little about how you got started in gardening and where that interest originated from?

 

I’m passionate about plants and gardening. Yes, it’s as simple as that. Since my mid-teens, in the 1980’s, when I first encountered horticulture through working in a nursery, which was open to the public, I was bitten by the gardening bug. Looking, listening & learning. Absorbing all that I could about plants, their native habitats, growing conditions, how to grow them, what to do with them, etc.

So many people would come in to ask questions and talk plants and gardening, and I would regularly hear them say you are so lucky working at what you’re passionate about. More than a few times older retired people would say ‘I worked for 40 years behind a desk, and all I got was this lousy watch. If I could do it again, I would do what you’re doing and work at what I love’.

I spent 20 years working in gardening and horticulture either full time or part time with great people, whom even now, many years on, I still am in contact with. During these years I studied horticulture, initially a certificate course in college and then the three-year diploma course in the Botanic Gardens, which was amazing as I was surrounded by plants and people with lots of knowledge.

Unfortunately, having to support a young family has meant my professional career has moved away from the horticultural industry. I still am very much involved though, through delivering garden talks, some gardening classes and more recently in the social media world, particularly on Twitter. 

Question 2: You have been documenting the evolution of your potager garden. Can you tell us how you designed it and why you chose a potager style?

Ha! Yes, great question. Sometimes I think it chose me, in other words, as I’m mad about growing plants and flowers, growing vegetables was something that needed to accommodate this need, I think  the ‘potager’ name fitted best, although I’m sure potager purists would completely disagree. To sum up my style … anywhere in my garden there are vegetables, flowers and plants of interest are not far away … Lol

Question 3: For someone who wants to start growing their own food do you have any tips or advice? 

Yes, definitely do! Learning to grow your own food is a road to travel, rather than a destination to reach. Along this road each of us have amazing successes and dramatic failures. Build your resilience by celebrating the success and simply talk and discuss what didn’t work with others so you’ll learn for next time. For me with some plants or crops, I’ve simply learned to ‘fail better’ on my path to success ! Start out on your journey with simple things like planting some strawberries or lettuce in a tub, a few peas from seed or trying some onions from sets are almost always a success. Tomatoes, potatoes and raspberries are nearly always a success too. Of course use good compost and look after the soil. If you look after the soil, the soil will look after the plants.

Question 4: I know from trying to work with our garden here that there are times it just feels like Mother Nature has decided she doesn’t like you anymore and it’s personal. What was your lowest point with the potager and how did you overcome that to the wonderful space it is now?

Oh golly. Sometimes it’s us that are the invaders. Mother Nature was there first! My most recent endeavour was to tame the lower end of the potager. It was such a jumble of weeds, old raspberry canes and anything else you could think of. I sketched out a plan of what I was looking for, did some research on how best to go about revamping the area and then set to it. A low(ish) point was putting in hours of work and realising I didn’t really make a dent in what needed to be done. After a little more research I simply changed tact. I marked out the area in beds and paths, removed woody material, roughly churned the soil and then simply covered the rest with black builders plastic for 6-8 months to smother out weeds, after laying some straw and manure over the beds. Worked a treat. The following May the beds were mostly weed free and the soil relatively easy to work. 

Question 5: How do you manage your time to stay on top of your garden? 

Lists. And lots of them. I have effectively four different gardens on this one site. Each of them I place different levels of importance. And then I work from there. As old Fred used to say, ‘a gardeners work is never done’. It’s not about having everything done the whole time. It’s having the most important tasks done within your current time, and then planning the next tasks. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I don’t, that’s part of the fun!

Question 6: What does gardening mean to you? 

This a great question, which I could write essays on, so I’ll try to distil it down to a paragraph. There’s a term I like to use now and again ‘gardenfulness’. It’s a play on the term of ‘mindfulness’, bringing all the elements of this to your garden environment, being present, enjoying what you’re doing, being in a flow state when working with soil and plants, allowing creativity to blossom (pun intended… Lol), etc. At times gardening means this to me. Other times it’s the very practical aspects of growing your own food as naturally as possible, getting stuck in and doing what needs to be done.

Question 7: What surprising lessons have you learned along the way? 

After being involved with plants and gardens for more that 30 years, in one way or another, there has been many many lessons, some very pleasant and somewhere I’ve received a good kicking. One of my lessons has been to source good information on new things I’m growing, mostly this is from books, sometimes through good social media contacts, and stick to what’s recommended, to begin with. 

Another lesson I learned when hauling manure as a young lad, for my dad or grand parents, was to give as much goodness to the soil as possible, this will be repaid through the plants.

And patience is a lesson I’m constantly learning. Sometimes it’s just not meant to be, no matter how hard you try. 

Question 8: How has the online gardening community made a difference to you as a gardener? 

It’s just great to connect with like minded people. When I first came across social media, I found there was a lot of negative narration and people criticising and wasn’t so sure about it. I remember at one point making a conscious decision to start spreading the positive word on gardening, how easy it can be and how we can make mistakes and recover from it. It’s what I do now, showing the joy of gardening, and the failures too. Thankfully the positives far out weigh the negatives … Lol

Question 9: What does the future hold for Hugh? 

Well, I’m in year five and a half of a seven-year journey in this place, so naturally savouring each of the moments here, with one eye on the future Horti Hugo growing place. I’m regularly on Twitter, every two to three weeks on Periscope, monthly on YouTube, and then there’s the written blog too … Lol. As the saying goes, watch this space … 

Thank you so much for answer my questions Hugh and if you want to follow along on Hugh’s journey you can find him on twitter here, blog here and YouTube here

Grow | Local

Grow | Local

Sometimes it feels like the universe is conspiring against you and I’m having one of those weeks where I’m being pulled along with gentle nods here and there that I’m right where I should be. It’s an odd feeling because usually, I feel like life is a never ending battle to get it to do what I want it to. It’s funny that today’s prompt should be Local because this week that is all I am talking about.

This week I am curating the Smallholders Ireland account over on Twitter and I’m taking this amazing opportunity to talk about growing your own food and how we manage to do that here at the cottage. I will be chatting about my previous life as a Chemist and how that has affected our water choices here and how important it is to introduce your kids to the garden and why shopping local is more than just a trendy phrase.

The Great Potato Hunt

If you have been following along on our adventure so far you know that my sanity comes from getting the kids out and in the garden and this weekend was the beginning of my favourite season; the season of  The Great Potato Hunt!! Every Saturday we turn over a bag of potatoes we have growing and the girls hunt for potatoes in the soil with their hands. They each have their own baskets and it’s a race, OK a rather unfair race to see who gets the most.

When we have nothing to harvest we try to shop local with as little plastic as possible. We use reusable containers for the butcher, we use Tesco home delivery when we really have to and we buy directly from local producers at markets.By doing this we try to make our footprints smaller on our planet and we try to support the local economy and producers so that they can continue what they love to do. I’m a firm believer in community because who doesn’t need a bigger family right?

For me, the word local is much bigger than it’s combination of five letters. It encompasses community, the environment, skillsets, businesses, food and the future. I haven’t even touched on my other big love of local yarns etc. I have to believe that even though we are just four people that our choices can make a difference both locally and to the environment and to others otherwise the overwhelming thought that it is all hopeless is just too much to bear. The choice to build a world for us and our girls that we want to live in has to be worth it and when our girls are older that they will appreciate our efforts. They will have memories of eating warm fresh peas directly from the plant, they will know what homegrown salad and veggies taste like but also the skills to grow them if they need to in the future. I want to believe that these choices and making a difference now can change the future and that it’s not already written. I’ll meet you back here in a decade and then again in two decades and I’ll let you know how it’s going.

Grow | In Stills – The Cottage Garden Tour

Grow | In Stills – The Cottage Garden Tour

Today’s post is a little bit different. I have been hiding from my garden for a while and instead of writing a lengthy post I took a series of images of anything that caught my eye this week in the garden. I think my favourite is the wild rose and potatoes growing together near the end.  I hope you enjoy and see you next week.

 

What’s looking great in your garden at the moment? Share on Ravelry, here or anywhere on social media using #growcraftlove and I’ll find it.

Grow | Reflections of Community

Grow | Reflections of Community

This June bank holiday I had the privilege of attending Bloom Fringe in Dublin Castle. I was expecting a fun outdoor experience where people came together and left inspired to try something new in their garden or whatever outdoor space they had. What I left with was something much more important than that. What I left with was a desire for change.

For those of you who have never heard of Bloom Fringe, it is Dublin’s urban gardening festival that runs during the June bank holiday weekend. This year it took place in Dublin Castle and Wolfe Tone Square and the theme for the festival was Play in the Streets. On Saturday, the courtyard at Dublin Castle was filled with raised beds, giant outdoor games of chess and connect 4, areas for bug motels, plants and of course the odd handmade sheep. I was working in Powerscourt so I appeared early for the breakfast sessions and to fill some bags of soil with Hugh Cassidy before disappearing to sell some yarn. I expected to meet people, learn a few things and become inspired but what happened has stayed with me for days.

Bloom Fringe is run by three incredible women Ester Gerrard, Marrion Keogh and Roisin de Buitlear along with some amazing volunteers all armed with pure determination. The breakfast sessions started with a quick introduction by these three ladies and from the first two minutes of Ester speaking, something changed. Here I was, a women in my early thirties sitting listening to women who had exacted change in communities, permanent change in some cases. All I could do was sit and listen and thank Peter Donegan that he was recording these sessions.

These women did not have huge funding but they had built a community and at each Fringe event, this being their 4th year, this community grew. Much like the craft community that I am a part of, the online gardening community is amazing and it was incredible to meet people in real life. These people spend their everyday life bringing about real change by creating outdoor urban gardening spaces, some in areas that you would never expect.

Then I got to talk with Sara Venn of The Incredible Edibles from Bristol who had flown over to take part in the Bloom Fringe talks. This was another woman bringing about change in her community in a very real way. You can click the link to listen to what it’s all about in detail in her Sod Show Podcast episode but in the two hours that I had to be with Bloom Fringe, these women had left me with so much to think about.  Sara spends roughly seventy percent of her time running Incredible Edibles where she does whatever is necessary to teach growing skills, enable people to be outside even in the urban environment and grow food that is accessible to all for free.  All of the gardens are made in lost and unloved spaces across the city, bringing those patches back into use, making them both productive and beautiful.

Why is this so inspiring to me?

These people bring communities together by putting outdoor games in spaces that are unused, encouraging people to pop out a window box, pop chairs in unused spaces and turning urban areas into green spaces for the benefit of all who come across them. These are simple things to do in most cases and for the time I spent at Bloom Fringe and from the coverage on Twitter, I could see that these things made a difference. I saw families playing outside together, people talking about hope and change in areas that are run down. In this one weekend, Bloom Fringe highlights this amazing community but there are people who do this all year round like Mud Island Community Garden off North Strand.

In all of these cases, these communities are run by volunteers who by donating their time, believe that they can bring change to their local environment and in doing so they have changed the lives of others for the better. Don’t believe me? Keep an eye on the upcoming podcasts from The Sod Show. I listened to a father talk about the difference these communities have made to his daughter in the city. His words brought tears to my eyes.  These communities do make a difference at a time when people feel like they can’t control what’s happening in the world around us. The answer is you can. Get out, get involved and make a difference locally. If I have learned anything this weekend, is that real change is made by each one of us. Just one person popping out a window box or helping out in the community brings a difference to other people’s lives in ways that you may never know.

You, your life and what you do with it, matters.

So my question to you is “What one small thing can you do to bring about change for the better?”

Yes, it’s easy to stay at home and focus on our enormous to-do lists but by finding that 1 hour a week to do something be it walking in your local area and picking up litter, planting community flower boxes or joining in your local community gardens, you too can be the reason that you make a child smile or give someone hope. I will be helping out in gardens more and using my online talents to highlight communities and the need for change.

Please head on over to listen to Ester on The Sod Show Podcast here and keep an eye out on the Sod Show podcast for the Bloom Fringe recordings coming soon. To all involved in Bloom Fringe and local communities, my deepest gratitude goes to you.

Grow | What’s The Story, Rory?

Grow | What’s The Story, Rory?

Hello,

It’s been a while since I have been on my blog and for those of you not taking part in the MKAL it’s been a while since you heard my voice in a new podcast episode and no, it has absolutely nothing to do with this wonderful bout of beautiful Spring weather we are having. I thought it would be a good idea to drop by and have a round up post about what has been going on in the Cottage.

First of all the MKAL workload on top of the podcast was extremely time-consuming. Editing is, unfortunately, something that takes a huge amount of time. Yes, I am a podcaster that believes in editing so that you can enjoy what you are listening to. I have also been recording future episodes of the podcast as well so there are some treats coming your way and you don’t even have to wait that long until the next episode of the podcast airs so watch this space!

We are taking a little break from the Notebook. It’s enforced really as the Cottage that we live in is under renovation. You can’t hear it but right this second there is a demo team in what used to be my kitchen which makes working extremely difficult. In short, my working week is cut in half for the next 2 weeks so yes content from me is a little light but the podcasts and blog posts that we are working on will make up for it. What are we doing for a kitchen I hear you ask? Well, that requires a post in itself!

A quick pic of one of our raised beds.

The garden has been a main focus of mine in the last 2 weeks as I need to catch up and plant our food now. The weather here has been too cold to germinate seeds outside so I have been working indoors to get my baby seedlings ready for moving out. It’s still a tad early here and we are by the sea so I’m playing it safe and being patient. We have some fine looking tomatoes, a cucumber plant, a courgette plant and aubergines inside and outside the lettuces are coming into their own along with the chard that we overwintered. The beets and spinach seem to have taken off over the last two weeks so I’m hoping for an early harvest of them too. It is looking like we will have an epic harvest of potatoes this year. We are suing one raised bed and lots of containers so it will be interesting to see the differences between them.

If you would like to catch up with a few posts of mine you can catch a recent post of mine on crafty places to visit in Ireland over on Karie Westermann’s blog here and of course, you can pop over to the Stolen Stitches blog tomorrow for a post from me. I will try and keep my guest post area updated so you can always find some extra content when I’m a little light here. I have also been working a lot with the Irish Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers so do pop on over to their Facebook or Ravelry and say hello to them. There are lots of exciting things happening with the guild this year and I’m delighted to be a part of that.

So, enough about me. What have all of you been getting up to recently?

 

 

Grow | Grow Like You Mean It!

Grow | Grow Like You Mean It!

It’s April and you’re inspired to give growing your own food a chance this year but you are so stuffed with chocolate eggs and that wind howling around your house is enough to make you cling to the couch and watch re-runs of your favourite comedy show. Fear not! All is not lost and you too can get this growing season under control and grow your way to fresh summer harvest.

Why – are you insane? My couch is so comfy!

Ok, you may be shaking your head but just have a look at that gorgeous fresh lettuce. If you want some inspiration to leave the warmth of your home and kick yourself into getting outside and sowing some seeds then have a read of this article from The Guardian.  GIY’ers and health professionals have been preaching for years about the benefits of growing your own food. It’s common sense that the faster you eat your food from harvesting, the higher the nutritional value and the better it is for you. So grow on and as the GIY folk preach on twitter, Give Peas a Chance this year and grow your own.

Ok, I’m interested, tell me more……

After having a read of both the article and GIY’s April news above you have an idea of what to plant but you are overwhelmed like a child standing in a sweet shop. Why not start small and pick up some peas and salad seeds. The peas grow fast and are great for keeping your interest and toddler’s short attention spans will not be disappointed. If you succession sew you will have fresh garden peas all summer long and right the way into Autumn if you choose a winter pea.

Salads are one of the fastest growing crops around and if you choose rocket, it will be ready to pick and add to your salads of your post-Easter diets in under 4 weeks. While you are at it, pop some radish into that window box too so you can have a bit of crunch to the mix.You may think that the season has started without you but I just sewed my tomatoes, cauliflowers (the first two sewings got ravaged by bunnies) peas and lettuces. My window ledges are full with little seedling pots. You don’t need no fancy containers, just grab something to hold soil and off you go.

If you are the scientist type and by that I mean thorough, you can follow the many guides on GIY International and they have a neat planner tool too so you can get an email when it’s time to do some garden duties.  Take my humble advice and start small using this year to try out salads and fast growing crops and use your success to fuel your interests.

Come on and grow like you mean it and wellie strut your way to summer of spoils! Don’t forget to show us your growing’ because I love being inspired by all of you!

Grow | A Botanical Adventure

Grow | A Botanical Adventure

Welcome to March on the blog and the start of Get Up and Grow campagain. It has been a little quiet around here and let me tell you why….

 

I have been trying to record the March and April sections of the podcast so that I can cover Edinburgh Yarn Festival and the MKAL. So, within 1 week there has been 5 recordings and I still have a few to go but last Saturday was very special. In the middle of those high winds and rainy days last week, I got to visit the Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin and have a chat with two wonderful people, who? Well read on:

As well as recording, I got to explore the gardens in February including the renovated conservatories and the walled gardens. I love peeking at other gardens to see what has done well and in this case, the kitchen garden with their bee hives and square foot planting was worth the visit in itself! I was blown away by the size of their leeks, spinach and chard and by how carefully they had planted everything! It has been a few years since my last visit and they have finished the beautiful Viking hut above.

 

As the rain moved in it was time to settle into one of the conservatories for the first interview with Peter Donegan from The Sod Show. I have been a long time listener to Peter’s garden podcast, so you can imagine just how nervous I was to chat with someone so knowledgeable about Irish horticulture along with being an established podcaster on top of that! Peter also runs Donegan Landscaping which he set up in 2001 at a young age of 24. When I asked Peter what his favourite garden was to work on in his varied career, he thought about it before his eyes lit up with the answer of the 17th Century gardens. This was the second live interview I have ever done, the first being Woollywormhead in episode 3 of the podcast and I love being able to watch the responses to the questions being asked. I hope you enjoy this podcast when it airs later in March.

 

 

 

After a much-needed coffee and a chat about the Botanic Gardens, I got to chat with the wonderful Fiona Kelly from Fiona Grows Food about all of her latest adventures in the Malahide Allotments, writing and workshops with GIY and a secret that we won’t divulge until the podcast airs. Fiona also has some tips for those of you wanting to start your food growing this year, be it in containers, raised beds, allotments or windowsills this episode should have you taking part in our #GetUpandGrow campaign.

 

 

 

 

The podcast also has some very special craft guests but I’m saving that for a whole post to itself. If you would like to keep u to date with everything happening around here you can subscribe to our monthly newsletter and pick up some hand discounts too!  Are you excited to get outside and grow your own food or dig a new flower bed this season? What are your plans for 2017 in the garden? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

 

 

Grow | February in the Cottage Garden

Grow | February in the Cottage Garden

This post contains no affiliate links

This weekend I have been cleaning and planning in earnest for the growing season ahead. I have ordered my potatoes and any extra seeds that I need to top up my collection for this year. If you would like to join us then read on:

Edibles

This year I’m breaking out on my own. This summer will be our third here at the cottage and I have a handle on how the sun and seasons work here. I will plan on some frost between now and early April and I have fleece at the ready but I’m taking my cue from other online gardeners and starting my planting season with crops that are hardier in the colder and low light days of Spring. Yesterday I popped a few seeds of each of these into some seed trays:

  1. Swiss Chard (Bright Lights)
  2. Winter Pea (Douce Provance)
  3. Spinach (Reddy)
  4. Turnip (Tokyo Cross)
  5. Mizuna (Red Barron)
  6. Tatsoi
  7. Cauliflower
  8. Onion(White Lisbon)
  9. Onion(Lilia)
  10. Cucumber (Passandra F1)
  11. Potatoes (Blue Danube, Red Duke of York)

I’m a sucker for the colour of swiss chard and at the moment I have some over-wintering in the warmer raised beds at the cottage walls. I use the rainbow colours around my veg patch to add colour to all of that green. I have never planted edibles this early so this will be my beanch mark. The weather has been mild this last week and there is always, always a late frost so everything will be under cover. I use cloches until May around here.

Potatoes

Between now and the end of March I will be planting my potatoes and this year I am planning on a raised bed dedicated to these. I was a little sad that I couldn’t get my hands on more of last years Shetland Black heritage potatoes. They were a real treat so this year I opted for trying Blue Danube instead. I have also ordered some varieties in tuber tasting packs from QuickCrop but I now can’t remember what I ordered. It was a spontaneous order while I was on their site. Yes, this happens to me with both yarn and veggies :/

 

Bedding Plants

  1. Scabosia (Caucasica Isaac House)
  2. Dianthus (Arctic Fire)
  3. Dianthus (Ipswich Pinks)
  4. Campanula (F1 Takion Blue)
  5.  Foxgloves

I’d just like to mention that my foxgloves are from my mother in law’s garden so these are smaller plants from a parent plant and not grown from seed and they are also in my front flower garden away from my veggie patch.

 I’m a little behind in planting these annual bedding beauties but I don’t have a heated greenhouse so these babies will be sprouted in a homemade heated propagator and then added to modules once sprouted. These need a lot of care so I do 2-week rotations from now to March with these guys as they need both light and heat which is tricky in these early spring months.

I’m a little behind in planting these beauties but I don’t have a heated greenhouse so these babies will be sprouted in a homemade heated propagator and then added to modules once sprouted. These need a lot of care so I do 2-week rotations from now to March with these guys as they need both light and heat which is tricky in these early spring months. These are filler plants that are part of a planting scheme already in place here when we bought the cottage. All of these plants have done well here and I will be interplanting with some blue delphiniums in a sheltered spot.

Get Up and Grow

How are your garden plans coming along? Are you going to join us? March around here will be the start of our #GetUpandGrow campaign with podcasts from some amazing garden people (As long as I don’t fudge up recording live!) and is as much to get us outside as it is to inspire all of you. Don’t forget all you need is a container and some soil and if you are in the city and stuck for outdoor space IKEA have these amazing hydroponic systems in stock and yes I’m planning on one for our kitchen to see us through winter.  How are your garden plans coming along? Are you going to join us? and don’t forget to check us out on all the social sites as @CottageNotebook

Grow | One Million Trees in One Day; Save The Trees

Grow | One Million Trees in One Day; Save The Trees

 

Every now and then I like to help out a charity or organisation when I can and yes since the babies are so small, I have been hiding behind my comfortable desk within my warm house to do that. On Saturday though, I got wrapped up and headed on out to get my hands dirty in the Malahide Allotments with the lovely Fiona Kelly as part of the One Million Tress in One Day project.

 

“The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago.
The second best time is now.”

 

The Project

For the Irish readers, I know you’re thinking, ‘Ya mad yolk’ but the best time to plant trees is in February and the weather gods obviously thought that we needed a bit of sleet and snow to help us along. The project was simple, drag yourself outside, bring a friend (the lovely Kat joined us), grab 5 trees per person and off on your treasure hunt you go. Now you’re going to have to forgive me for some of the images, it’s February, freezing and I’m trying to work a camera with giant gardening gloves on.

 

Fiona’s first little Hazel tree planting

Treasure Hunt

Probably the best part of the whole experience was wandering around the allotments looking for the designated zones for our handpicked trees. Many a lap around the allotments was had. A huge thank you to the people who laid out the whole hunt as it was so much fun finding a space for my baby trees. Each tree was planted with care with our wellies, spotty socks and of course the wellie dance of joy. Don’t believe me? Here are some action shots:

 

Can you dig it?

Left foot out, right foot in, behold the wellie dance of joy

Another selfish reason I joined in, was to grab a glimpse of Fiona Grows Food‘s allotment in real life. At the moment she has the most wonderful chard and rhubarb and it made me so jealous as my chard is about half the size. Just take a look at these beauties:

Rhubarb

Chard

This is one Saturday I won’t forget in a hurry. I have never joined a real community garden project before and here I was surrounded by like-minded people with a sense of humour (it’s freezing and we’re laughing while planting trees, a sense of humour is a necessity) and there were children bundled up, running around laughing and genuinely happy to be outside, enjoying the company of all.

It wasn’t just the sense of community spirit that I loved. As I planted my oak sapling knowing I would not be alive when this, the most majestic of trees, came into maturity; I was doing something that was to benefit future generations and the full scope of the One Million Trees project was brought home and it was humbling. This Saturday to me was a bit of joy and hope for the future when things at home and abroad are so troubling and bleak. A simple act carried out by so many over the island of Ireland can and will make a difference to those coming behind us.

As always, with any time spent with Fiona, I had a smile on my face, a pain in my side from laughing and I came away with far more knowledge than I came with. This last picture sums up exactly what I was dealing with:

 

 

 

 

Grow | Plan to Suc-seed! January Planning in the Garden.

Grow | Plan to Suc-seed! January Planning in the Garden.

January is a bit of a ho-hum month in the cottage garden but it is in fact a very important month. It’s time for you to make your gardening plans for the year. If that’s not enough to get you excited why not think about the amazing fruit and veg you could be picking from your very own garden or flowers that you could be tending during those warm summer months. It’s time for you to plan to succeed for 2017 and here are some handy tips to help make that happen so let’s Get up and Grow!

[bctt tweet=”Plan for your garden to suc-seed in 2017. Check out some handy tips on the blog!” username=”cottagenotebook”]

Plan Crop Rotation

Yes OK that is something that you see on every gardening site but if you don’t plan your rotation then you can’t order those amazing seeds! Usually I sketch out a plan for my beds and then get all nerdy and use excel to pull a system together but there are some tools out there you can take advantage of.

Growmatic by the wonderful people at QuickCrop is a FREE online resource to planning your planting. It  also emails you notifications so you don’t forget. Growmatic has worked great for me in the past as the toddler likes to add the veg to the calendar.  They also have some amazing video tutorials if this is the first year you are trying a new vegetable.

Visit GIY HQ / GIT International

To get inspiration why not take a trip to a working veg garden with fantastic advice and a cafe to try out all the seasonal produce. GIY HQ is located on the Dunmore Road in Waterford City near the roundabout and their website also has amazing tutorials but what I love best is their Newsletter. These ain’t your average mails, inspiring and funny these mails should have you smiling and doing the wellie dance of joy no matter the weather.

Tidy

Listen your not going to know what space you have or containers you need to invest in if you don’t do the boring stuff too. So in this case, it’s time to get out there in whatever ten minute period you can find and tidy up. From pot cleaning to weeding (yup it never ends, not even in winter) any tidying you do now is an advantage for the busy season ahead.

Tunnels / Greenhouse

This is the perfect time to clean and repair the tunnels and wash down the greenhouse. Let’s face it it’s warmer in there anyway and I don’t know about you but it’s somewhat peaceful and perfect for some you time.

Order Seeds

This is by far the most fun. New seed catalogs get me motivated and excited about the year to come. This year can be anything I want it to be though usually I’m restricted by space. I love using Seedsavers for heritage seeds and also Seedaholic. I get my Mr. Middelton catalogs around now and curl up in front of the stove and plan with my filofax beside me.

What are you planning for 2017? Let me know in the comments or you can send me a picture of what you’ve started on Instagram or nab me on Twitter. You can sign up below for the Newsletter for some monthly inspiration, gardening tips and behind the scenes info on the podcast.

 

 

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Love | Happy New Year

Love | Happy New Year

The above image represents me perfectly right now. I’m huddled up on the couch with a coffee and my laptop while wrapped in knitwear. January 1st has always been a strange day for me. On the 31st of December I’m always motivated and excited about a fresh start and new beginnings but today all I want to do is to sit on the couch and knit all the things I couldn’t over Christmas. I’m refusing to give in for now and I thought a Thank You post was in order with a little view into what’s happening in 2017.

Podcast

There are some changes happening on the blog and podcast. They have gone from strength to strength and I want to thank you for all your love and support in 2016. The feedback from the podcast has been amazing, so much so that we will be extending the season right through to the summer. There will be a mix of guests and solo casts with more GIY toddler friendly episodes as the growing season kicks in and we are really excited to share our success and failures in the garden with all of you. There will of course be more conversations with the craft community and woolly related segments and of course some more giveaways.

Blog

I’ll be honest when I got sick and the busy Christmas season was in full swing, blogging was really hard to keep up with. The question I got asked most often between September to December was where do I get the time? I won’t lie, there was very little sleep at the Cottage but I loved every minute of guest blogging, freelance writing, podcasting and working with all the wonderful people from the craft community. I have met people I have admired for years and talking to you and working with some of you has been a dream come true, so thank you again.

The blog will be growing and changing as the year goes on so do keep an eye out. This is our notebook and it will always be a mix of personal posts intertwined with guides, interviews and reviews. The learning curve has been pretty steep and you all keep me on my toes but you are supportive and fantastic and I’m really excited about what is to come. I will be posting more personal writing pieces like The Quiet Flaneur as I miss this style of creative writing.

If you missed any of the podcasts from 2016 you can catch them all here and you can see my favourite guest posts on the sidebar menu.   If there is something that you would like to see more of on the blog than please let me know and if you would like to just get in contact with me you can use the contact from here. From all of us here at the Cottage, we wish you a very Happy New Year and I hope it brings you all your heart desires. Looking forward to sharing a woolly, fun filled 2017 with all of you.

 

xxxx

Nadia

Love | Reflections

Love | Reflections

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December for me is all about reflection, from GIY to yarn and craft to personal goals set in the early new year. I always try and find some time during this busy month to see if I’ve managed to achieve what I wanted. As a mum it’s always hard to put yourself first because there is always something that you deem more important and you rank it higher up the list. It’s time to put you feet up and think about you, after you finish this post of course!

That journal in the picture holds all my gardening ideas and achievements from 2016. It holds my dreams for the raised beds, my plans for square foot planting and rotation ideas. As I sit with my coffee, which is a rare occurrence around here, I doodle and plan for the year ahead. I catch up on my notes in the columns and try and decide on what seeds to order and what I’d like to try in the coming year. As the weather deteriorates, I move to my knitting and weaving to see me through the darkest months of the year.

I started to do this for my yarn stash and wips too by making my own sections in my Filofax. They slowly have been taking over lately as my needles broke and I have been awaiting my new ones. As I type, I’m multitasking and also stalking the postman! My journals and Filofax keep me from feeling overwhelmed but how do you stay on top of things this busy season?

Having just had a baby at the end of 2015, I knew this year would be busy but I had personal goals too. I didn’t want my children to take that little piece of myself that I kept just for me and so this notebook and podcast was born. From here my year got so busy and I’m delighted to have met all of you and to share in your story.

2017 is already gearing up for a fun filled crafty year with some new GIY experiences in store so I’m going to take what downtime I can this year as my Christmas present. What are you wishing for?

Top 5 Things to do in your Garden in November

Top 5 Things to do in your Garden in November

Winter has certainly made an appearance and around here, the chilly mornings have led to a little more care in wrapping up the garden beds. I usually slow down everything in November as the daylight hours are really short and the frost really starts to make an appearance. We don’t have a tunnel we just use cloches and fleece to extend our season so with an abrupt weather change, this usually comes to an end.

Autumnal Glory

Autumnal Glory

1 – Lawn Care

Surprisingly this is one of the jobs that just keeps going as long as there is a bright dry day and the ground isn’t sodden. We usually cut the grass and trim the edges when it’s needed. We also try to treat all of the moss patches as it builds up over winter.

2 – Roses

I like to plant my bare root roses now to get them established over winter as long as the soil isn’t very wet. I move any tender patio roses to sheltered locations or into an unheated conservatory. I tie in all the climbing roses and tidy up their area.

3 – Bedding Plants

I usually have moved any bedding plants I want to protet from frost by now but there are a few geraniums hanging about that need protection. I’m also planning my bulb garden for spring with lots of snowdrops, tulips and daffodils. I’m also on the lookout for some special bulbs for the alpine beds. I’m leaving this a little late and in reality I only have this week to get them in the ground really. Tulips hate a late planting.

4 – Veg Plot

My raised beds are doing quite well at the moment. My mini swiss chard, carrots, radish, onions, turnip, lettuces and kale are all looking well. The last batch of carrots are coming out today and I will be turning the bed over. I cover all with cloches and fleece and I just check water levels every few days. A big surprise this year is our late batch of winter peas. Although I had to hand germinate these, there are some pods forming and I’m excited to see what happens.

I also use this section on my garden list for DIY. Painting the sheds on a good dry, warmish day and adding any sealants to wooden features for winter protection.

5 – Greenhouse / Houseplants

I like to clean out my conservatory (my greenhouse lol) and check my houseplants around now. My orchids are doing well with new leaves forming and I have cleaned out any containers to make them ready for spring sowing.

That’s it. November is a time to slow down and pick up my garden journal and reflect on the year. I make plans in December for the varieties I’d like to have next season. I like plan crop rotation beds too but it’s usually in December in front of a stove with coca.

How is your Winter Window Challenge going? Are you managing any growth indoors? Is your must do job missing from the list? Let me know in the comments.In case you missed it the lovely Fiona from Fiona Grows Food very kindly filled out a spotlight feature for us on Friday and you can check out her answers here.

I also have a little confession to make, the bunnies have eaten through all my veg that I was overwintering. Remember this post and that really nice picture of my caulifower and salad seedlings? Yip, they all got nibbled by the fluff monsters. The Toddler knows how to open the cage now, oh the joy!

See you on Wednesday for a Craft update!

Nadia

Interview | Fiona Grows Food

Interview | Fiona Grows Food

Happy Friday to you all! It’s time for another Spotlight on the blog. I think the craft community has been hogging the limelight in previous weeks, so I am delighted to introduce the fabulous Fiona Kelly from the award winning blog Fiona Grows Food. I just cannot read enough of Fiona’s writing and after reading this spotlight, I know you will be looking to learn a little more about her. Grab that cuppa, get comfy and read on:

Question 1: Some of my readers may not know a lot about the gardening world. Could you tell us a little about how you got started in the Malahide Allotments and where that interest originated from?

I began my little allotment project in 2012. I had been out of a job for a long spell and the country was in the midst of a bad recession. At the time, I was looking for something to pass the days while I was looking for work.

 

My parents had gotten an allotment in 2010 in a beautiful walled garden in Dublin and I had spent a bit of time visiting their plot and enjoying their harvests. I guess I always followed in their footsteps; being an only child, I have a really close relationship with both my Mam & Dad and their influences have really shaped me over the years. So, when I saw an advertisement up for a new allotment project in Malahide, I was first to put my name on the list. I got quite lucky to get a plot so quickly, most allotments here in Dublin have waiting lists that stretch for years. The first day on site was overwhelming! It was just a huge, empty field with the plots marked out with a post at each corner. Because Malahide Allotments were a brand new project, I didn’t take over a previously worked plot and I had a 100 square meter pile of muck and had no idea where to start. It was a long process to get it from where it was then until now. I was the first plot holder in Malahide to plant anything on site, which will always be my own personal claim to fame; that and my pink shed!

The fabulous Fiona Kelly

The fabulous Fiona Kelly

 

Question 2: Congratulations on your win at this years Littlewoods Blog Awards, I’m sure that feels amazing! You started your blog and allotment venture quite young. Can you tell us why you decided to blog about it? 

Thanks a million! It’s a bit surreal, there were some really amazing blogs in my category so I was shocked to get an award. Garden blogging is pretty niche so it wouldn’t have as many followers as the other lifestyle blogs out there so to win was a pretty big deal for me.

My age seems to be one thing people always comment on when they ask about the allotment (that and my gender), probably because allotment gardening is often associated with older males; though a trend is emerging of more young women involved in allotments and community gardens so perceptions are beginning to shift in that regard. I guess I was pretty young when I started my allotment, the very first day on site was my 27th birthday, so I share a birthday with my plot which is pretty special. I never saw my age as an inhibiting factor and in fact, in regards to the blog it has worked very much in my favour.

I suppose I began the blog as I just love writing and I felt it would be a nice way to keep my friends updated about the garden. I also wanted to encourage young people to grow some of their own food. It’s pretty spectacular to marry my love of gardening with my love of writing. The blog turned into an entirely different beast than I ever envisioned. It started as a small little project to keep me busy while unemployed but turned into a great way to connect with other growers & horticulturists around Ireland. I’ve made brilliant friends and have great supporters, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind.

 

Question 3: How do you managed to balancing working full time, look after the allotment, blog and manage to write for Grow? 
In a nutshell? Five hours sleep a night. ?
I don’t talk about my job much online but I have a busy, full time management job which I’m tied up with for most of my week. Making time for my allotment can be challenging at times. Sometimes, I have to forgo time in the garden in order to see family and friends but most weekends, I get to visit for a while. It’s far easier in the summer months when I have long evenings after work but in winter, my time in the garden is more limited. I guess it just takes a bit of determination and dedication, there’s little room for laziness in the food garden. Unfortunately the blog is the thing to suffer the most when I’m busy, I have to make the garden my priority, so I don’t update the blog every day, I’m more of what’s known as a “slow blogger”, I’d rather have quality content over a daily bombardment just for the sake of it.
I think the reason I manage to juggle my job, blog, garden and other commitments is that I just love what I do. I’m excited by it. It makes me happy and that is always worth spending time on.

 

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Question 4: For someone who wants to start growing their own food do you have any tips or advice? 
Where to start?! I guess the best piece of advice I could give you is don’t be afraid to fail. Growing food is all about patience and time. Nature does all the work for us, all we need to do is plant the seeds. Sometimes, crops just don’t work out and it’s not your fault.
You don’t have to have a large garden, it’s possible to just grow a pot of herbs or a chilli plant on a windowsill, take baby steps.
Grow what you like to eat.
In terms of practical advice, I can tell you, soil is the soul of a garden. Always spend time on your soil, even if you’re just growing in containers. Avoid weed killers and chemicals of any kind, they destroy the environment and kill our pollinators, grow organic. Read your seed packets, keep a diary and label your plants. Keep your plants well weeded. Water, water, water.
Question 5: I know from trying to work with our garden here that there are times it just feels like Mother Nature has decided she doesn’t like you any more and it’s personal. What was your lowest point with the Allotment and how did you overcome that to the wonderful space it is now?
I’ve had to admit defeat so many times over the years in the garden and it’s a humbling experience but there was only one occasion when I really wanted to give it all up.
It was during the summer & autumn of 2013. I’d had the plot for a little over a year and I really loved it but that June I had a major upset in my personal life and was unable to visit my allotment for four weeks. When I finally did pluck up the courage to go, I remember I looked around the plot and just burst in to tears. The place was a disaster, the weeds were hip height, my crops had died and I was so overwhelmed by what had happened to my life and my garden that I just sat there and cried for an hour. I had a bereavement a couple of months later so the allotment suffered again. At that point, I really couldn’t see how I could continue and I considered giving it up. But with some encouragement from my Mam, I decided to keep it at least until the lease was up the following spring. Of course, by then I had gotten on top of everything and in fact, the allotment became the place I went to when I was racked with grief so it really became my haven. The garden kept me going (until I broke my foot but that’s a whole different story).
I’m so glad I decided not to give it up because it has gone from strength to strength since that day. Sometimes I still think “Fudge! This is too much.The weeds are a joke. The weathers too bad. My potatoes have blight. Slugs ate my seedlings.” But then I see a hare on my plot or I pick some tomatoes and I know I’ll continue to grow, despite all the challenges. The joy of the garden outweighs the hardship.

 

The famous pink shed of the Malahide Allotments

The famous pink shed of the Malahide Allotments

 

Question 6: What surprising lessons have you learned along the way? 

To be patient, not something I’m always good at. You can’t speed up time in a garden, you have to work with the seasons.

That it’s ok if a seed doesn’t germinate or a crop doesn’t succeed, it’s ok to admit defeat and start over. Gardening has grounded me.

Slugs hate coffee but love cabbages. Slimy little weirdos!

That gardeners are generally the soundest and most generous people around. I’ve been blown away by the support and kindness of the gardening friends I’ve made over the past few years. If you want to experience kindness, befriend a gardener.

That there’s more to learn about muck than you can possibly imagine.

Oh and that fingerless gloves are the greatest item of clothing ever invented.

 

Question 7: We are big fans of GIY International here and their magazine Grow. Can you tell us how your collaboration with them started? 

Glad to hear you’re a fan! GIY are a great organisation to be involved with and I’ve been a fan for years. When I first got my allotment, I joined a local GIY group and I found the meeting so helpful and it was nice to meet some other growers and share tips. I was contacted by GIY in April of this year. They had read my blog and asked me if I’d like to write something for their summer edition. I had to pinch myself really, it was very unexpected. For me, it was pretty much a dream come true. I think what GIY are doing for Ireland is inspiring and very important. The staff are an incredibly warm supportive group of people and it’s a joy to work with them.

Question 8: I have to ask, do you have any craft hobbies?

My Mam is a brilliant knitter and taught me from a young age. I was a serious stitch dropper though and always, always ended up ripping back the whole thing countless times before crumpling into a ball of frustrated tears! Thankfully as I’ve gotten older I’ve improved somewhat and now I’m a pretty ok with needles! The day I mastered cable knitting was a huge deal for me and my clumsy hands! Sadly, I don’t have the time to knit very often with all my other commitments. I’ve dabbled with making jewellery, I can weave with a bead loom and do some wire work. I also went through a big crossstiching phase when I was about 12 and even tried my hands at quilling for a while.

So, I do like to make things with my hands, particularly for my garden. I guess I see writing as my true craft though, I’m happiest when I’m stitching words and weaving stories.

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Question 9. With such a strong love for sustainable living, what do you want your legacy to be? or how do you want to be remembered? 

Terrible gardening puns. That’s what I’d like to be remembered for.

Nah, I don’t see myself as having a legacy, I’m a live-in-the-moment kind of person; but I would like to know I helped the bees in some way and if I can encourage just one young person to get growing, that’s the best I can ask for.

Question 10: What does the future hold for Fiona? 

I’d love to undertake study for an RHS qualification in Horticulture (you know, because I’m not nearly busy enough already) but it all depends on time. I do have some exciting plans as far as my blog is concerned but I’m keeping that under wraps for now. I’ve also got some more collaborations with GIY in the works so I continue to be blessed. Mostly though, I’m just hoping for plenty of days spent digging, watering, harvesting and dancing around my garden in the summer rain.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today Fiona. I have to admit after I read these questions, I was in awe. If like me your looking for more from Fiona, you can find her Seasonal Container Growing segment on GIY Soundcloud . Fiona has also appeared with Peter Donegan on The Sod Show were they chat about starting the allotment in Malahide and how to rock a sexy wellie. If you want to get in touch with Fiona and congratulate her on a fab interview, you can find her on Twitter,  Instagram and of course her blog FionaGrowsFood.com.

Love | The Quiet Flâneur

Love | The Quiet Flâneur

This weeks Discover challenge is Flâneur and it immediately spoke to me. For all our wants and dreams for this cottage and its garden, myself and my husband have been forced to sit back, watch and wait for our world to change.

A View of Skerries Harbour by J. Seaver

A View of Skerries Harbour by J. Seaver

We bought our beautiful home in 2013 but I was heavily pregnant and no amount of will power was going to get me to start the process of dragging this 100 year old cottage into the present day. So we waited, this time on the birth of our first daughter, who came quietly into the world, eyes shining and bright but with such spirit for one so tiny.

From here, we rested and watched our garden and our baby grow. We photographed and we contemplated as the seasons changed. Flowers bloomed, leaves fell and milestones were surpassed. The fatigue of new parenthood forced us to watch and pullulate our lists and dreams for our home. Then, from a wish, we grew daughter number two and the dream of working on our new home was again put aside. Again, we became observers.

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The birth of spring bulbs as the idea of summer beings to form.

We waited and we watched as our firstborn came to terms with a sibling and ideas began to grow. We started to leave the observer behind and began building our dream home, on our little patch of earth by the sea. We built raised beds and we smelled the sweet, salty summer coastal air. In time we began to harvest the first tiny fruits of our labour, overwhelmed by what was still left to do.

Apple blossoms in Spring.

Apple blossoms in Spring.

We sat back and watched our seedlings and our babies grow. We logged our achievements and failures. We marked the trees for felling and ground for sowing but as always the garden and parenting took precious time. We have achieved but a tiny portion of our dreams in the three years we have lived here. I have the feeling that in both our garden and our children’s lives, we will always be observers. Tending and nurturing when we are needed but for now, as winter draws in, we watch. We wait. We observe.

Grow | Winter Window Challenge Update

Grow | Winter Window Challenge Update

Hello again, it’s Monday and that winter chill is really starting to pack a punch. I thought a short blog post on how things are growing here in the garden, might brighten up this gloomy day.

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Indoor Winter Lettuce

The winter lettuces are really having a spurt at the moment. I have moved them inside and will probably be used as baby lettuces.  You can see their true leaves and one or to rouge cauliflowers have managed to sprout in the wrong place.

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Outdoor Raddish

The radish above like all the outdoor raised beds at the moment are tucked away at night in fleece. This is how the baby veg are protected here. It won’t protect them against the harsh winter but it will extend our season a little.

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Outdoor Chard

Something is eating my chard, It has had a few little nibbles. I will find out what it is. It’s unusual for me to find nibbles on plants that are protected but I think this guy must have ended up trapped in here.

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Peas and winter lettuce under the tunnel

Ah, our back bed tunnel. The lettuce did not like being moved here. I planted mostly garlic in the back grids. These are early varieties and will be harvested before the summer veg goes in to take the grids. Those are winter peas that you can see towards the back and yip, those are flowers on them dagnammit! These are also tucked up and suffer from the problem of fluctuating temperatures. I’m not to sure what I am going to do with this back bed for winter. Right now I will let it go as long as the plants are happy. So I guess, sometime in November I may just cover it over.

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Pumpkin Jack

Drumroll please – finally here is our Pumpkin Jack. Little T (the toddler) stood on the vine so he won’t get any bigger or mature I don’t think. But we can still carve him! There will be a family pumpkin carving night this week and I will share some pictures on Instagram and Twitter. This means that Little T grew the biggest pumpkin this year (I call sabotage) with last weeks pumpkin being the biggest and heaviest from our garden.  If you want to find out the varieties and specifics of what we have here you can see the September blog post here or scroll under the Grow tab for all our GIY adventures.

Grow | Let’s talk about Leaf Mould

Grow | Let’s talk about Leaf Mould

As Autumn is in full force here at the cottage, the Russian Olive trees, Acers and the deciduous trees are dropping more leaves than I can manage. There has been a problem with wet winters and leaves on the ground here promoting things like leaf spot and other nasties. To stay on top of this, we try and get out once a week to rake and make bags of leaf mould for next year. But why?

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Quick Facts

  • Leaf mould is free and just requires a little effort.
  • It’s suitable for all fallen leaves in Autumn.
  • Pine needles are dropped mostly in Spring and may take 2 – 3 years to decay
  • Shred evergreens like holly and laurel and add to the compost pile to breakdown faster.
  • Leaf mould is essentially a soil conditioner and increases the water retention of your soil.

Making Leaf Mould

We don’t like to use any chemicals in our garden. Our kids are small and if there is a natural way to combat a problem, then we are trying that first. Aside note: this is not helping the never ending War on Weeds! My father a long time ago, when I was too young to appreciate the advice, told me about the magic of mulches. Alas my young and carefree ways meant that I have a hazy memory of his advice. Leaf mould is an easy one though and can be a fun family activity as long as you don’t mind re-gathering and a few leaf fights along the way. Equipped with dustpans, brushes, a rake and wellies, a family field trip to the back garden was born.

The glorious colours of Autumn

The glorious colours of Autumn

We have a walled in garden but one side is near a road. You all remember how photosynthesis worksright? Well these leaves might be affected by pollutants from heavy traffic so if your collecting leaves from out and about, try and stay to the quieter streets. I think we are ok though, so I just added these to a bag of their own. Ahem, also pick a day when it’s not blustery or you end up eating a few leaves.

We raked into piles and let the toddler dump the leaves into black sacks. We then tied these at the top and stabbed the bag a few times to allow air through. The leaves were a little damp but if yours are dry just moisten them a little before you tie them up. And that’s it, we just stacked these guys up in the back of the shed and we will grab them in two years time. I’m impatient so I will check next year but I think it will be 2 before they are done.

How to Use Leaf Mould and some things to watch for: 

I usually use well rotted leaf mould as mulch and top dressing on my beds. I just spread it out when I need to cover up the soil and suppress weeds.  If your pile is slow to breakdown, treat it like your compost and turn it to aerate it. Just use your nose, if it smells strongly then something is wrong. Any leaves that have mould on them just bag and bin you don’t want these in your garden and spreading disease.

We also have been using my father-in-laws shredder all summer long. To break up all those bark, hedge and tree clippings. There was also an unruly honeysuckle incident that was like a scene out of a Disney movie. Two days later I had survived and the honeysuckle has been tamed. All the clippings went through the shredder and the resulting bark mulch was bagged and tagged for use later next year.

After the excitement of leaf gathering, we all piled inside for hot chocolate or milk and some family quiet time by the stove. If the thoughts of quiet time and finally getting an exhausted toddler to sleep isn’t enough to get you outside, think of all the fresh air and exercise you can get in before the winter season descends!

Pumpkin Watch & Winter Window Challenge Update

The first pumpkin has made it’s way passed the finish line here at the cottage. That is believe it or not from the babies pumpkin plant. Didn’t mummy do a good job helping little K? I’m not jealous though, nope, it’s not like my pumpkin plant died or anything. (cough cough) The variety is Hundred Weight and the seeds where from Tesco and gotten as a gift for the kids. So to say thanks, I started our Families First Pumpkin Competition!  (Yes, I thought I was a sure winner – bah)

The seedlings are off to a great winter start and the raised beds have been covered in fleece (Thanks Fiona!) The cauliflower seedlings were moved into bigger pots on Saturday and the spring onions went into the outdoor raised beds by the cottage walls. The salads are just about to be moved! I know some of you have already eaten your microgreens and are on to something new already. How are you getting on? Have you planted those seeds or herb garden? Did you manage to get out in the garden at all or are all your minds lost in the delights of the upcoming K&S show and EYF (Edinburgh Yarn Festival)?

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and you can keep up with the blog by subscribing on the sidebar or over on Bloglovin’. We are new over there so show us some love! If you missed it Episode 2 of the Podcast has gone live and there is a nice competition to win some lovely Dublin Dye DK!

Grow | GIY – But Why?

Grow | GIY – But Why?

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Hello and happy Monday to you all.  It’s a blustery wet start to the week here at the cottage and I’ve come down with the dreaded sniffles.  Nope, I’m not faking so my DH will make me a hot whiskey and I can hide away from the kids. There is no reality where I can hide away from my kids,  that baby is like a bloodhound,  she can sniff me out from over 100 paces away!  We’ve been very busy over the last few weeks and I didn’t take care of myself and now I’m paying the penalty.  Send all the cake!!!

"Oh what a lovely bunch of app-pples" The only thing looking good in my garden right now!

“Oh what a lovely bunch of app-pples” The only thing looking good in my garden right now!

I thought I would take this chance at a slower pace and explain to you all why we chose to grow our own food here at the cottage.  I’ll be honest right from the start it was more of a selfish desire than the thoughts of helping the environment.  I had this idyllic vision in my mind of walking outside to the back garden on a lovely summer day, picking some fresh veg and walking back through my stable half door, into my kitchen and making some fabulous food.  Over the summer this was achieved but there was a lot of hard work involved but I guarantee you that it was worth it and it’s more labor intensive than difficult.

When I start with a goal in mind, craft or garden related, I usually spend a few hours researching it with my Filofax at hand.  I had a hazy memory of growing plants and some food when I was younger at home before Nintendo stole my teenage years, so I had an idea of what to do and where to start and I knew the business end of a seed and the importance of soil.  But where my gaping lack of knowledge was just how to start when there was no area cleared for planting, I mean my parents and family had always done this bit for me and I had no idea what to do.

My mind went to container gardening and raised beds.  I covered how we set this up on the podcast and previous posts so I wont bore you again but the more I read around the topic of GIY the more sure that I wanted my kids to grow up with a sense of food empathy and an understanding of where the food they are eating comes from.  Yes, I know my kids are very young and right now it’s more of an activity to tire them out and keep them entertained but it’s a mutually beneficially one.

The Benefits

The benefits of GIY are just endless, I’ll list 10 reasons right now off the top of my head:

  1. You get outside and get active with plenty of fresh air thereby improving your health.
  2. You reduce your grocery bill because as you grow more you buy less.
  3. You reduce your environmental food impact by eating organic GIY food with no pesticides (gotta help those honey bees) and less fuel consumption on food transport which leads to better air quality too.
  4. Food tastes better when it has just been picked. I have never tasted anything like fresh peas from the garden!! Yum.
  5. You reduce food waste. If you grow it you see the time and effort it took to grow you don’t waste it. In fact you start to learn new preservation skills!!
  6. Keep chemicals off your plate
  7. Help biodiversity in your area.
  8. You have a much wider choice of the many different varieties of food. (I chat a little about this on the podcast)
  9. Food security in the knowledge that you can just head outside and pick your dinner. Nothing like a shopping trip to the garden or balcony!
  10. Sense of accomplishment and pride. I will never be able to describe the feeling we had sitting around the dinner table looking at an entire meal that we had grown ourselves. That meal in particular was the turning point for us. We will always have food growing in our garden, even if it’s just window boxes.

Ok, give me more info

So with all these reasons in mind, I bet you would like a little more info and security in GIY before starting next spring!  Why not check out these wonderful Soundcloud pieces from GIY International at Bloom festival.  Have a nosey around the GIY website too. This is  best carried out witha cuppa and a few biscuits at hand.

Do you GIY? why do you do it? What made you start? Was it as selfish as me? What worked best for you? Where did you start, allotment/garden/window/balcony? Drop me a note in the comments I’d love to hear from you!!

 

 

Grow | Square Foot Gardening Series

Grow | Square Foot Gardening Series

It’s been a miserable windy weekend here at the cottage but on the podcast I promised a post on Square Foot Planting because that’s the method we use to grow all our veg.  It’s intensive and you do need to take a little care with your planning but it’s fantastic and I highly recommend it.

 

tools
Ok you got me interested, how do I start?

We use raised beds here, they are one 14″ high and 60″ long. We divided these into 1 foot squares by placing a nail every 12″ and then using twine we formed a grid. Each square is approximately 1 foot and a fixed amount of vegetable seed is grown in each square. Then have a look at growing some veg but start small, say salads? or root crops? Then slowly expand the following year when you have an idea.

If you don’t want to go whole hog into raised beds, just grab a large container or a bag, fill with soil and sow some lettuce crops. They have rarely failed on me and have grown everywhere! This is a handy guide for figuring out the number of plants that you can plant per square foot.  If your handy then build a box 4ft x 4ft with untreated wood.

 

infologo_square-foot-planni

You want to plant something that isn’t on the chart above? Then just have a look on the seed packet and there are a set of instructions for spacing between plants, and bang there you go.

The soil used in the box is best made up from:

1/3 Coarse Grade Vermiculite
1/3 Soil
1/3 Blended Compost

If filling a lot of raised beds I do recommend Enrich vegetable soil or have a chat with your local Garden Center.

 

And the downside?
Ok you got me you do need to know a little about the crops you are planting. Certain veg do well when planted near each other and some really hate sharing space. If you want to start the easiest thing is to grab a piece of paper and a pencil and draw a grid pattern of your bed and write the veg that you want to plant next to each other. Then check out this link from Growing Anything and see if your plants get along. Companion planting is laughed at by some and followed to the letter by others.  It worked really well for me this year so I will be following the same guide next year.

 

It really is that simple, build a box, fill with soil, add a grid and sew some seed. There really is no excuse and if your in an apartment there are always containers that you can use and grow smaller plants in. I know people with peppers and chili plants in their sitting room window and others with micro greens growing out of old butter tubs in the kitchen and there is a very inventive couple who are growing an entire wall of salad out of old pallets.

 

This leads me to ask, how are you getting on with your Winter Window Challenge? Our seedlings are all starting to waken up and I’ve moved some of the window boxes inside at night because the weather is getting a little on the brisk side. The first to break through are the oriental salads followed closely by pak choi and radish. It’ll be a close one to the finish line, I better have my camera ready!

Our seedlings are waking up for the Winter Challenge. How are yours growing? #WW16 #GIY #garden #gardenersofinstagram

A post shared by Nadia :Ireland: (@cottagenotebook) on

 

 

Haven’t started yet? That’s ok you can still sow some seeds indoors and they will keep you company in your kitchen as the dark of winter draws in. Snap some pictures and show us what your growing!